Three years ago, the terrorist group Boko Haram kidnapped more than 270 Nigerian girls from their dormitory and took them away, ostensibly to marry them off to terrorist fighters. Some of the girls were as young as 12.
The world erupted in anger. And there was an immediate reaction from the left to this outrage, led by First Lady Michelle Obama. Mrs. Obama started a Twitter campaign, #Bringbackourgirls, that swept the social media world and allowed everyone to give themselves a pat on the back that they were “doing something about the problem.”
But what exactly did Michelle Obama accomplish? She made the situation worse.
According to Fulan Nasrullah, who is a former member of Boko Haram, the group’s infamous leader first saw clearly the value of the young women he’d abducted from a school in the town of Chibok after Michelle Obama held up her little sign reading “#Bring Back Our Girls.”
“That’s when it clicked: ‘We can negotiate!’” said Nasrullah, who is now an independent intelligence analyst. In that moment, the girls were transformed from yet another group of young women abducted by the insurgency into potent global symbols and, in fact, a source of leverage for Boko Haram.
Friday marks three years since those 276 schoolgirls were abducted in the middle of the night from their dormitories in Borno State. Although a handful escaped or were released, most continue to be held hostage, having spent more than 1,000 days in captivity with no sign they’ll be freed anytime soon. And it is simply a matter of record that many of the efforts to do good and help these women, like Michelle Obama’s tweet, have not had happy outcomes.
It gets worse.
When the campaign was reaching its height in 2014, Nasrullah says, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau was pleased because he “likes to have the United States’ attention.” Since then, the analyst notes, the Chibok Girls have become an integral part of the insurgency’s media campaign and play a significant role in its negotiations with the government.
That Michelle Obama stupidly played into the hands of the terrorists is not surprising. What’s eye opening is that her protest and the protest of millions who imitated her actually made things worse for those girls.
The current protest meme of taking a knee, whether it’s at an NFL game, or in Congress, or during a speech by Vice President Pence, should force us to ask questions about the protests themselves. Are they only to make the protesters feel good and morally superior, or are they about actually trying to change something? The incoherence of this #takeaknee protest is its hallmark. Is it to protest Trump? For free speech? Against oppression of black people?
It’s laughable to believe that protesting the National Anthem or taking a knee for any reason will have any effect except to make a whole lot of people mad at you. It won’t save one unarmed civilian who is shot by police, and may indeed contribute to more innocent people being murdered because police are refusing to vigorously patrol high-crime areas. It won’t change the hearts and minds of racists. It won’t alter the opinion of white supremacists.
I submit that protests like this (and protests by Black Lives Matter and Antifa) tend to create more racists, more white supremacists, and more neo-Nazis. Like Michelle Obama’s efforts to #bringbackourgirls, the law of unintended consequences trumps the highly emotional and otherwise futile efforts of the left to bring about meaningful change.
It would be ironic if those claiming to fight against oppression, or racism, or fascism ended up making the problem worse with their protests.